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The PLP at 60

PHILIP C. GALANIS
pgalanis@gmail.com

Published: Sep 02, 2013

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Sixty years is not a very long time; however, everything is relative and in the context of today’s article, 60 years represents at least two generations. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the formation of The Bahamas’ first and some would argue only nationalist political party, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Therefore, this week we would like to Consider this… how has the PLP performed in its first 60 years?


Its formation

Formed by William Cartwright, Cyril Stevenson and Henry Milton Taylor, the PLP first met in August 1953. By that November, the party infrastructure was set up and the PLP became the first national political party in The Bahamas. As described by Sir Lynden Pindling in a speech on its 20th anniversary, the “…party was born out of the absolute necessity felt by the masses in the country to bring about a change. This party was weaned on the hopes and aspirations of the people being symbolized by the party.”

From its first moments, the PLP hit the ground running, establishing branches throughout the islands within the first six months and catching the imagination of Bahamians who wanted to be more than second class citizens in their own country, unsatisfied with the colonial approach of not only their British masters but also their local legislators. In their 1956 convention program, the PLP promised “to give the people a greater say in the government of their country by eventually establishing a system of full responsible government”.

The government of the day, the so-called Bay Street Boys, comprised principally of the white oligarchy of merchants, businessmen and attorneys that represented the white minority in The Bahamas, were astonished when the groundswell of support for the PLP was manifested when the PLP actually captured six seats in Parliament in the general election of 1956, the first they contested, only three short years after its formation.


Twenty-five years in government

The PLP first won the government on January 10, 1967, ushering in majority rule only five years after universal suffrage and governed for the next 25 years until 1992. During the period 1967 to 1992, the PLP was led by Lynden Pindling, who became the second premier and then the country’s first prime minister in 1969 when the Bahama Islands Order came into effect on May 10 of that year.

During Pindling’s 25-year rule, The Bahamas witnessed the unprecedented and rapid expansion of a middle class of black Bahamians, driven primarily by universal education through the proliferation of a public education system that had not previously existed with so many schools. The emergence of the middle class was also greatly enhanced by the implementation of the government’s Bahamianization policy which ensured that Bahamians who were qualified to hold certain positions in the workplace were given priority over non-Bahamians.

The Pindling administration also heralded the establishment of important institutions such as The Central Bank of The Bahamas, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, The College of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Development Bank, which provided start-up funding for Bahamian businesses, and a National Insurance scheme that for the first time afforded Bahamians a state-sponsored social security system which included retirement benefits for the masses, who also benefited from a massive low cost housing program.


The agony of defeat

Following a successful and sustained campaign against corruption on the part of the PLP government, the Pindling era came to an abrupt end on August 19, 1992 with the election of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, leader of the opposition Free National Movement (FNM). The FNM won a second consecutive term in 1997 and a third non-consecutive term in 2007.


The thrill of victory

Mr. Perry Christie became prime minister of The Bahamas on May 2, 2002 when the PLP defeated the FNM. During that term in office, Mr. Christie’s government accomplished much, some of which included:

• The creation of 22,000 jobs in all sectors of the economy;

• The attraction of approximately $17 billion in foreign direct investment, of which over $2.5 billion of that investment became tangible. The value of the projects upon completion would exceed $4.5 billion;

• The growth of government revenue from $875 million to $1.36 billion or 55 percent, without increasing taxes during its first term in office;

• Adding $1.5 billion to the Bahamian economy;

• Establishing a venture capital fund and increased funding by $25 million to the Bahamas Development Bank to assist entrepreneurs;

• The signing of a $1.2 billion heads of agreement with Baha Mar Development Ltd. for the revitalization of Cable Beach;

• Approving the $1 billion Phase III Atlantis expansion;

• The construction of more than 1,300 homes and 500 fully serviced lots;

• Renaming the Nassau International Airport the Lynden Pindling International Airport;

• The establishment of the Clifton Heritage Park which is managed and preserved by the Clifton Heritage Authority;

• The rehabilitation of Prince George Dock; and

• The establishment of anchor projects on the islands of Exuma, Rum Cay, Abaco and Eleuthera.

In the general election on May 7, 2012, also led by Mr. Christie, the PLP won a solid majority in a landslide election victory, taking 29 of the 38 seats in Parliament.


The unfinished agenda

Since coming to office in 2012, the PLP government has been hamstrung by the world-wide economic recession and the lack of funds needed to advance its agenda. Some of the significant planks of that agenda include the reduction of crime in our society, the creation of jobs, the introduction of value added taxes and the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

One of the greatest challenges facing the PLP in the 21st Century continues to be the economic empowerment of our citizens.


Celebrating the PLP’s 60th anniversary

This week, the PLP announced that it will not hold its constitutionally mandated party convention this year. No reason was given for that decision. In light of the historic six-decade milestone that will be reached this year for the party, it is inconceivable that the nationalist party will not convene, if only to mark this very historic milestone of 60 years of the party’s contribution to the development of our country. In addition, the party leaders must not be seen to be “hiding” from their supporters who need a rallying charge from them. This is a pivotal year for the party.

Conclusion

The PLP has much to celebrate in this 60th year. As the nationalist party, the first Bahamian political party to have endured and thrived, the leaders of the PLP would be well-advised to remember that, even after 60 years, there is still much work to be done. In the cautionary and visionary words of Sir Lynden in 1973 as he marked the first two decades of the PLP, words that still resonate today:

“The Progressive Liberal Party must not become a conservative party; we must not be afraid of change; we must not lose our radical zeal. We must continue to be progressive and liberal. New and better ideas arise each day, expectations run higher each day... The next 20 years is not a time to rest on our laurels... We have planned successfully to get to the top. We must now plan to stay on top for it does not happen automatically. To stay on top, this party must find new causes to champion and new social injustices to eradicate. And we must champion those causes and eradicate those injustices even if we discover them amongst ourselves.”

Now more than ever, especially with the formidable challenges of our 21st Century world, the PLP needs to reflect on its past accomplishments and build on them as the party carves out its positive and progressive path for the next three score years and beyond.


• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.



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Last Updated on Monday, 02 September 2013 13:59
 

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